A man was attacked by a grizzly bear sow Sunday morning after he stepped into the brush along the Sun River near where he had been camping and accidentally found himself between the bear and its 2-year-old cub.
The attack left the man with what Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Information Bureau Chief Greg Lemon described as non-life threatening injuries.
The injured man was with a group of people who were camping and floating the Rocky Mountain Front waterway above Willow Creek Reservoir in an area west of Augusta.
The group was able to get cell phone service and call 911 for help and the man was flown by helicopter to a hospital for additional treatment.
Lemon said he believed the man had been both scratched and bitten in the abdomen area. The FWP spokesperson did not immediately know why the bear halted its attack.
Adult female grizzlies average between 250 and 350 pounds in weight. Adult grizzly bears are typically up to 4 feet tall at the shoulder, but can be taller than 8 feet when reared up on their hind legs.
After the attack the sow swam across the river and the cub remained onshore. Lemon said that kind of separation isn't unusual for a 2-year-old cub, which is on the older end of the range spectrum for cubs.
"It's getting to the point where it can fend for itself for the most part, but they'll stay with their mom," he said.
The floating group had been on the river for a day already before camping on public land. They had broken camp and were preparing to get back into the river when the attack happened sometime around 8:30 a.m., according to FWP.
"We showed up to investigate the incident and determined the grizzly bear had acted as we would expect a female grizzly with a cub in a surprise encounter with a human," Lemon said. "We cleared the scene in the early afternoon and are going to take no further action with the bear."
The general area along the Rocky Mountain Front near the scene of the attack has had "a ton" of bear activity this year, but Lemon said he's not sure if it's different than years past or simply related to general increase in bear population.
"That area is right in the heart of the Rocky Mountain Front grizzly bear country and has been for quite a few years."
Lemon emphasized that people should be proactive about taking steps to avoid a surprise bear encounter.
"It's a good opportunity to remind people that much of Montana is grizzly bear country now. When they're out this time of year, bears are active, people are active, they need to be prepared for a grizzly bear encounter. That means having bear spray and knowing how to use it. Traveling in groups, making a lot of noise, keeping an eye out for bear sign, doing everything in your power to avoid a surprise encounter."
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